An Interview With.. Novak Djokovic | 2019 Wimbledon (R1)

Novak Djokovic speaks to the media after his 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

© Wimbledon / Youtube

Q. Tell us how Goran came to your team, the conversation. What do you hope he’ll bring to your weaponry going forward?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It was very simple. I gave him a call, after I spoke to Marian, who was supportive of that idea. I called Goran and asked him whether, you know, he’s available to come to Wimbledon and sort of give it a try, and have a little bit of a trial type of tournament where we get to know each other and see how it works.

I’m really glad he accepted and came over. I don’t know if he will be able to stay for the whole tournament, depends how I go. He’s got some commitments in the second week.

But everything so far has been working really well. We’ve known each other for a long time. It didn’t take too much time for us to really feel comfortable one next to another. I mean, we’ve been friends. I’ve seen him around the tour in the last seven, eight years a lot because he coached three top players that I’ve played against many times.

It’s nice to have him on my side of the net this time. He’s a great guy. He’s someone that obviously he’s a Grand Slam champion, top player for many years. I looked up to him because everyone from the region was supporting him when he was playing. Yeah, he was kind of a hero of mine.

I grew up also training with Niki Pilic who was coaching him, as well. He was coaching Croatian Davis Cup team and Serbian Davis Cup team. There was a lot of connection, say. We go back a long time, since I was I think 13, 14 is when I met him for the first time.

Q. Why?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Excuse me?

Q. Why? What are you hoping he’ll bring?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, first of all, I get along with him very well. I spoke to Marian. We both agreed that we were looking for someone that was a former champion, someone that knows how I feel on the court, someone that has been through that.

We agreed with the concept, so to say, the idea of introducing a new coach to our team, an addition like Boris Becker was back few years ago. It was a very successful period with Boris. We’re hoping we can have the same with Goran.

Q. Can you remember the first Wimbledon, the sights, sounds, memory? Did you come out on the Tube or transport?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The first time?

Q. Yes.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, first time I played qualifications for Wimbledon was the first time that I ever played on the grass court. I never seen a grass court before. That year I think I was 17. It was quite a unique experience for me, obviously never playing on this surface, dreaming to be part of this tournament and eventually one day get a chance to win it and do it on the Centre Court. That was something I always dreamed of, always visualized when I was younger.

Because the quallies are played in a different location, I think they are the most special quallies of any tournament because you have so much pressure, you play best-of-five in the last round. The reward is having an access to this club, which is very exclusive club.

So for me it was a family affair when I won my last match in qualifications, I remember I beat Wesley Moodie, who won doubles Wimbledon, very good player on grass, saved couple match points. As soon as I qualified my brothers booked a flight, my parents, my whole family came over. It was a great experience.

I think I got to round four actually, played pretty well in my first year in Wimbledon. Ever since then this tournament has a special place in my career.

Q. As the defending champion, getting the honor to open play on Centre Court, what were your reflections perhaps today or in the days leading up to today about what got you to that championship last year and what you endured to get to that point?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, obviously it is a great honor. Greatest honor probably in our sport, you know, to play as defending champion on untouched grass. I’ve been privileged enough to have that experience several times in my career here in Wimbledon.

Every time I step on the court, I reflect on what has happened the previous year, especially if you come as the defending champion. I did kind of go through the feelings, rewind those memories, the last championship point against Anderson last year in the finals.

Yeah, it was quite a different situation or quite different circumstances 12 months ago and now. Obviously approaching this tournament now has been different for me. I think I have a bit less pressure, more confidence in my game. Last year I dropped out of top 20 of the world. I was still struggling coming back from injury and surgery to find the desired level of tennis.

It was a huge, just huge, importance to win this trophy for me. It was a transition that I was looking for. This is the biggest tournament in the world. To win the trophy here just meant a lot for me. I felt a huge relief. After this tournament last year, I started to play my best tennis. That got me to No. 1.

It does have a special place in my heart for many different reasons.

Q. Looking at the match specifically today, it felt like it took a few games for you to settle into your rhythm. Was it championship nerves or just getting used to the court again?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, both I think. There’s a lot happening obviously when you step into the court as defending champion. The importance of this tournament, I emphasized that, mentioned that before. Regardless of the fact that I have experience, I’ve played on this court many times, I did experience this particular, so to say, role or situation before.

But still I’m a human being as anybody else. I do feel nerves. At the same time I had a great quality tennis player across the net who is very dangerous. I lost to him earlier in year.

The break in the first game wasn’t the start that I was looking for. But I think I came with the right intensity. I answered back really well. Then from that moment onwards, I played pretty good match, I thought. It was a good quality. I held my serve well.

Of course, the first match, you slip few times, still kind of finding the right position on the court, the right place. But I’m overall satisfied.

Q. This is the first year that female players aren’t being referred to by their marital status, Miss or Mrs. during announcements of scores. Is that something you welcome as a greater equality between the sexes? How do you feel about the loss of that tradition at Wimbledon?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s the first time I hear it, to be honest. I don’t know, to be honest, how I feel about it. I thought that tradition was very unique and very special. I thought it was nice.

What is the reason for that?

Q. I think just to bring more equality between the sexes. The men are not referred to as Mr. and they didn’t want to keep referring to the women at Miss or Mrs., whether they’re married or not.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Was there a complaint from the men’s side for that (smiling)?

Q. Would you prefer to be called Mr.?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, I really don’t mind. I mean, sure, if that is the reason, then why not? I support that.

It’s definitely not easy to alter or change any traditions here that have been present for many years. It’s quite surprising that they’ve done that.

Q. Justin Gimelstob was in London the last few days as all the players council stuff was going on. Have you been in touch with him? Would you consider him for getting his seat back?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes, well, I have friendly relationship with Justin. He did advise me when he was in London. We saw each other shortly. We keep in touch through the phone.

I’m not sure, to be honest. We haven’t really been talking about his, you know, potential candidacy for any role. He has a lot on his plate right now. He’s dealing with a lot of things back home, family and everything. It’s not easy period for him.

Also not for ATP, you know. But I’m glad that at least majority of the players stayed in the council after the meeting was done couple days ago. I did say that I understand the players that have resigned. Very, you know, so to say, a turbulent meeting, if I may call it that way.

We all there try to volunteer and contribute as much as we can for positive change in our sport. Weller Evans has been appointed as an interim player representative role for six months. Then the process will be reopened towards the end of the year. Whoever has an intention to run for the America’s board representative can do so in November.

Q. On that open seat, there’s three now on the council, have you ever thought of only filling two of them so you have an odd number and stop tying all the time?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That’s a fair point. We talked a little bit about the structure. But I think the last meeting and what has happened, the whole process with Lapentti and Evans, the deadlock that has carried on from Rome to here, was quite unique. I don’t think it has happened before, to be honest, in the history of ATP politics.

I think there has to be some form of change in the structure. I mean, there has to be something else that has to be implemented. They have to figure out ways, that’s not our job. We can obviously have conversations and suggest something.

It’s up to the management and the board reps to come up with some solutions. We’re waiting for them. Hopefully can have some good solutions in the future.

Q. You referenced playing a part in Goran’s preparation.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes.

Q. What was your role?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Didn’t he tell you that was essential for his win here in Wimbledon, me bringing him the snacks (laughter)?

Actually, that’s what happened. He was in Niki Pilic Tennis Academy in Germany, where I have spent quite a lot of time between age of 12 and 16. It happened to be that famous 2001 when he received the wild card here in Wimbledon, and he came over to the academy for several weeks. I had the permission to approach him while he was training and to bring him some snacks because he was hungry, training a lot.

Of course, I was there every time he was on the court. I was observing, learning, watching, supporting. Niki, who is my tennis father, as I like to call him, had a big influence in his career, in his life as well. There was this connection early on already.

Yeah, I think those snacks really made the difference for him in Wimbledon (smiling).

Q. You weren’t born when Bjorn Borg won five times here. At that time everybody thought it was unbelievable. Now you have won four times Wimbledon, which is not too bad. Do you realize that? Federer has won eight. But thinking to win five times the tournament which you were dreaming of when you were a kid…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I guess the first time is always very special. Every time I won here, I had that positive change in my career. It seemed like the win in 2014 was exactly what I needed. Last year’s win, as well, to kind of turn things around, get that confidence, prove that I can win slams again.

Between 2011 and ’14, again, I was winning Australian Open, but the other events I wasn’t winning, the other slams. That was a big win against Roger in five sets. Then next year again against him in the finals.

I mean, it’s hard to describe it. There’s always extra importance approaching this event comparing to any other for me. Probably for many other players, this is the tournament I think a lot of players dream of playing.

Q. About Borg, did you remember anything or knew anything?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No.

Q. Saw him on film?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yes. Documentaries and films, yes. But live no. I was still not here with you guys. But I did grow up watching Pete Sampras, obviously Goran, guys like this. Borg has won five times in a row, if I can recall well. That’s an ultimate challenge, winning the biggest tournament in the world in a row five times. I think Roger has done it, as well.

Those are the biggest names of our sport of all time. To be kind of considered to be close to that group is an honor for me.

Q. Going back to Goran. From the outside, it feels like with the scheduling problems and everything, it’s similar to what you tried to do two years ago with Andre Agassi. What makes you convinced it’s going to work a bit more profitably than that did?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It just depends. With Andre, that was a tough period for me. I had a six months off because of the elbow. I start to work my way back on the tour. Then surgery came two months later. Then the recovery from that. Those kind of circumstances were not really in favor of my relationship and collaboration with Andre.

But it’s a different time now. I’m healthy, knock on wood. I’m playing well. Goran is someone that is comfortable traveling. He has done that with several different players he’s worked with in the last five, six years.

As I say, it all depends how we both feel after this tournament. We’re going to give it a try. We’re going to, of course, advise with Marian who is still my coach, he’s there. We all have to feel comfortable with that decision, whatever the decision is.

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